Update: With discounts, buying options, Microsoft makes push to entice Vista customers

New version of operating system goes on sale to consumers Jan. 29

Microsoft Corp. yesterday unveiled more discounts and upgrade options for Windows Vista aimed at jump-starting sales of the operating system.

Probably the most dramatic is a discount aimed at families running multiple computers at home. From Jan. 30 to June 30, North American customers who buy an upgrade or full retail copy of Windows Vista Ultimate will be able to get one or two additional copies of Windows Vista Home Premium for use on other PCs at $49.99 each. Windows Vista Home Premium lists for $239 for a full retail version and $159 for an upgrade from Windows XP or 2000.

But to get the discounted price, users will have to lay out a tidy sum: $399 for a full version of Windows Vista Ultimate or $259 for the upgrade from Windows XP or 2000.

While the discount is targeted at families, small businesses can take advantage of it, too, said a Microsoft spokeswoman.

However, customers who own only a reseller version of Windows Vista Ultimate -- that is, one that was preinstalled when they bought a new PC -- are not eligible for the discount, the spokeswoman said.

Microsoft is sensitive to some projections by industry analysts that Vista's sales will be initially sluggish, with consumers and corporations eschewing features such as Vista's graphical and security enhancements.

It has taken several steps to raise buzz and sales of the operating system.

For instance, having missed the traditionally key holiday season, Microsoft is offering vouchers to consumers who bought PCs in the last three months that can be redeemed for Vista upgrades after its official release on Jan. 29.

It also gave away free laptops installed with Windows Vista Ultimate to influential technology bloggers.

Microsoft announced another upgrade program to customers today. Through a program called Windows Anytime Upgrade (WAU), customers will be allowed to upgrade to more powerful versions of Vista by simply clicking within Windows, purchasing an upgrade from Microsoft's Web site and downloading an activation key.

All of the most popular PC brands, including Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Inc., will ship with separate CD-ROMs, which, when installed, enable the Anytime Upgrades.

Users who buy a nonbranded PC without an accompanying CD-ROM can get the CD-ROMs for free by asking Microsoft, said Josh Kriesberg, director of marketing for Windows in a follow-up interview today.

"Anyone can participate in WAU," he said.

Users may then upgrade either reseller versions or full retail versions of Windows Vista.

The upgrade prices are as follows:

  • Home Basic to Home Premium $79

  • Home Basic to Ultimate $199

  • Home Premium to Ultimate $159

  • Business to Ultimate $139

After the upgrade, users will continue to own either a reseller or full retail version of Vista, according to Kriesberg, and have the installation rights of that version.

In November, Microsoft revised the retail license terms for Vista so that customers may uninstall the operating system from one machine and install it on another as many times as they want.

Reseller versions of Windows are tied to the original computer it was installed upon. Microsoft does not allow users to transfer reseller copies from one computer to another, even if the original one crashes and dies.

More information can be found at windowsanytimeupgrade.com after Jan. 30.

Finally, Microsoft confirmed an earlier announcement that customers will be able to buy several versions of Windows Vista and 2007 Microsoft Office and download them online from a Microsoft e-commerce site windowsmarketplace.com. Online versions are available in English only for now. Prices are the same as retail.

Techies with MSDN or TechNet subscriptions have been able to download and buy Windows Vista since the end of November. Microsoft also allowed small business customers to download Vista after paying for volume licenses at CompUSA.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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